Friday, 10 July 2015

Review: D'Artagnan: A Sequel to The Three Musketeers by H. Bedford-Jones

H. Bedford-Jones' D'Artagnan: A Sequel to The Three Musketeers is a fast-paced adventure set after the events of The Three Musketeers, in the year 1630, when Cardinal Richelieu was fighting for his position against powerful enemies - and eventually solidified his power. The novel features all the familiar musketeers and several new characters in a relatively simple but fun adventure. The author uses the traditional gimmick of the time, claiming that the story is based on Dumas' lost papers, just like Dumas based his story on earlier documents.

The story starts with d'Artagnan receiving an important mission for the Queen and then engaging in a duel with the main bad guy of the story, Comte de Monteforge. The illegal duel is soon interrupted by Cardinal Richelieu who asks them both to meet him for a short discussion separately. D'Artagnan receives a mission that sends him on a dangerous journey that reunites him with Athos, Porthos and Aramis and they all get tangled up with the plot in their own ways. There's also a surprising amount of blood and violence in evidence amongst all the plot twists. And, once again, d'Artagnan manages to get into a lady's bed by pretending to be someone else.

The characterisations are all pretty much spot-on, which was a pleasant surprise after having read pastiches that misinterpret some or all of the musketeers in various ways. There's also enough historical and regional detail to keep the story well grounded in the period and setting. The plot is not very strong, but offers enough action and blood-thirsty enemies to keep it moving.

The one big problem with the story is that it introduces Athos' son, Raoul de Bragelonne, but goes very much against the character's backstory as set up by Dumas. One wonders whether Bedford-Jones read all of Dumas' work or if he missed the chapters that revealed the circumstances in which Raoul was born. Of course, a third option is that he thought that he came up with a good story and did not let the established canon stop him. Whichever the case, I enjoyed the story and was able to ignore the nagging questions about this for the most part.

An amusing aspect of the novel are the chapter headings. Bedford-Jones has clearly taken a page from Dumas' manual and headings like "A Naked Man Has No Choice", "The Astonishing Effect of a Kick Upon a Dead Man" had me chuckling.

Overall, this was a surprisingly entertaining find and makes me want to look deeper into H. Bedford-Jones' works - perhaps Robert E. Howard is not the only worthwhile pulp era author to follow.